More from Bitter Lemon
The site also brings the good news of another novel from the great Friedrich Glauser: The Chinaman, with publication dates of February 2007 in the U.K. and November 2007 in the U.S. Like the first three Glauser titles published by Bitter Lemon, this is translated by Mike Mitchell. Long before I ever thought much about the job translators do, I noticed an interesting challenge that Mitchell must have faced: how to convey the speech of characters who slip in and out of various German dialects. Here's what Mitchell had to say on the subject in an excellent article on translating crime fiction that I cited a few weeks back:
"Thumbprint ... is set in Switzerland and the language is an important part of the setting. (Whether Swiss is a 'dialect' or not is something I won't go into here.) Mostly the characters speak 'normal' colloquial German with the odd Swiss word or phrase. Sometimes they speak broad Swiss: this is impossible to copy, if only because there is no English 'dialect' which has a status and usage comparable to Swiss, not even Scots. ...
Glauser tells us his detective, Studer, normally speaks the German of Bern, though as I said above, what appears on the page is mostly ordinary colloquial German; but sometimes, when he's angry, Studer speaks 'formal' (close to written) German. The author points this out, as a way of indicating his mood. Another character speaks a mixture of Swiss and formal German which doesn't sound quite authentic and, again, Glauser points this out. I've copied this commenting on the characters' language, doing it in places where the author doesn't, where it seemed to me that the particular type of language used reflected mood or feeling. I felt I could do this because the author's 'voice' makes that kind of comment. Beyond that, I have kept a few Swiss words and phrases, where the meaning is clear enough, in order to try and emphasise the Swiss background (e.g. 'Chabis' = cabbage = nonsense)."
© Peter Rozovsky 2006
Crime fiction in translation